Sport

Fairytale of North West: Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan ‘owes everything’ to life in football

By John McDougall & Matt Davies

Dave Whelan admitted that he owes everything to the beautiful game after scooping the award for Lifetime Contribution to North West Football for his unparalleled success with Wigan Athletic.

Whelan has been Wigan chairman since 1995 and saw his side rise up the divisions before promotion to the Premier League as Championship runner’s up in 2005.

After keeping a watchful eye over his team’s eighth year in top-flight football, Whelan admitted that he would be nothing without the beautiful game.

“Football gave me my first opportunity to be a businessman, to learn things, to do things, it took me around the world, so I owe so much to football that everything I put back into it, I put it back in with a pleasure and with a pride,” he said.

“When I put it into Wigan Athletic, I feel it’s my hometown and I feel so proud of it.

“This award has been given to so many great football players and for me to join them and be recognised for all the work I’ve done at Wigan Athletic, I’ve enjoyed every single moment of it – it’s sort of a fairytale.”

Whelan oversaw Wigan’s promotion from the fourth tier of English football in 1998 before seeing his side promoted again five years later.

Wigan finished their debut Premier League season in tenth, and scrapped their way into safety with a remarkable run of form towards the back end of last season – even stumping rivals Manchester United’s title hopes.

The Latics had only five points at this stage last season, before a late surge of seven wins from their last nine league games saw them finish in 15th.

Whelan feels his club have made their mark during their tenure in the Premier League, and Wigan currently sit in 14th place after eleven games of this current campaign.

“We’ve played a lot better than our results show,” said the former Blackburn Rovers and Crewe Alexandra full-back.

“We’re still doing alright, we’re on 11 points and we were nowhere near this last year.

“We want to finish in the top half of the league this year and I think we will do.”

Having funded the £30million DW Stadium’s construction back in 1999, Whelan also spoke of developing Wigan’s youth facilities to benefit the English national team’s future.

“I want every city and every town in Britain to have facilities like we’re going to have in Wigan,” he said.

“Let us look after our youngsters, let us get them playing sport, let us get them playing football and have more youngsters and more kids in the England team.”

The JJB Sports founder said he is working alongside Roberto Martinez to build a platform to ensure the long term future of the Latics.

By investing money in to new training facilities, Whelan hopes the club will eventually have the facilities to compete with the very best of the Premier League.

“We have ambitions, great ambitions and hopefully we can fulfil them,” he said.

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